It boggles the mind
It's not what you look at that matters; it's what you see.
My kid is a frickin’ Boggle phenom.
For those unaware, Boggle is a word game played using a plastic grid of lettered dice, in which players have 90 seconds to find words in sequences of adjacent letters.
As a self-described “word girl” and board game enthusiast, I love the thrill of discovering hidden words. Considering I’m a professional writer, you’d think I’d have a competitive advantage. And I do, except when I’m playing it with my youngest daughter, who’ll usually beat me.
Does she have an advanced vocabulary?
Is she a voracious reader?
Uh, no, and (sadly) no.
It has nothing to do with her vocabulary or reading habits; it’s about seeing patterns and possibilities others don’t and then acting on them.
She literally, fearlessly, and unapologetically makes up words that seem like they could be real, and most of the time, that unconventional strategy pays off.
For instance, I can confirm that sen is a legitimate word (it’s one-hundredth of a yen).
So along with all this experimentation, there’s also learning. Win-win.
Henry David Thoreau famously said:
“It’s not what you look at that matters; it’s what you see.”
How you view the world—what is and what could be—can significantly impact your career trajectory. It’s the difference between those who blindly accept things as they are and someone whose unique perception creates a vision of what’s possible.
Those who possess the ability to see beyond the status quo of situations, products, people, and ideas are the in-demand innovators and creative thinkers companies and clients most value.
Fortunately, with practice, you can shift and enhance your powers of perception.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
First, start paying attention
It should go without saying that perception begins with our ability to truly “see.” Though it can be tempting to zone out during seemingly mundane tasks, try to pay attention to details and subtle nuances. Has anything shifted? Do you notice any patterns? When you shake up your routine, you increase your level of awareness, which can fuel your imagination and creativity and turn observations into actions.
Ask, “What if...?”
A friend of mine likes to say that asking What if...? leads to Let's try... . In a professional sense, asking this question can open up previously unknown (or considered) possibilities or solutions. It also becomes a positive path for exploration, for even if an attempt “fails,” you’ll gain insight you wouldn't have if you hadn’t tried.
Say “Yes, and...”
A basic tenant of improvisational comedy is “Yes, and...” thinking, which suggests that a participant should accept what another participant has stated and then expand on that line of thinking. If a partner fails to do so, the game—and their communication—falls apart. So frustrating! When you embrace the concept of “Yes, and...” in your career, you’ll naturally lose some ego and become more open, which helps you build on ideas, strengthen relationships, and foster collaboration.
Relive your high school debate class
Remember when you were asked to defend the other side of a debate, the one in which you disagreed? That exercise forced you to move beyond your preconceived biases and beliefs to consider alternative points of view. And because you then needed to make a compelling argument, you inadvertently increased your understanding of both sides of an issue. As a result, you gained clarity and were able to reframe things. The same principles apply in your career: the more you can see all sides of an issue, the better you can find solutions.
Invite a contrarian to lunch
To make significant career progress, you must do something that initially might feel wrong or counterintuitive: actively seek out differences. Yes, it can be scary. And yes, it requires you to take action and put yourself out there. But when you welcome and engage with those who possess views contrary to your own, you change your environment and open your mind to new worlds. Having someone who will challenge you to dig deeper and play devil’s advocate can help you shape your thoughts and methodologies in ways you could never do on your own. Does someone make you think, even if at first you disagree? Then you're on the right path.
Finally, be like Sting and Shaggy
At first glance, pairing the former frontman of The Police with a Jamaican reggae artist might seem like an oddity. But when you dive a little deeper, you'll find that each has been influenced by Caribbean sounds and shares a deep-rooted love for Jamaica: Shaggy’s birthplace and where Sting wrote “Every Breath You Take.” And more importantly, it’s precisely why this unlikely duo works beautifully together.
When you combine two seemingly disparate things, you'll often find something special emerges. In the business world, it’s the juxtaposition of ideas, the mashup of styles, and the hybrid of ideas that can create an entirely new category, product, or service.
And when you become known as someone who effortlessly connects the dots and sees possibilities where others do not, you'll be valued for your insightful perception.
Or, you know, for your ability to repeatedly beat your mom in a game of Boggle.
Even if you’re a leader used to quickly finding solutions to keep things moving, you may want to rethink your approach.
In my latest Forbes article, I share why you might be missing an important opportunity to get R.E.A.L. and empower others.
P.S. When I’m not writing this newsletter or losing to my daughter at Boggle, I’m a social media ghostwriter. (Yep, that’s a thing). I help founders, entrepreneurs, and CXOs craft their stories to communicate and connect better by magnifying their reach and impact. (Think personal branding and thought leadership.) Learn more here.
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Oh, how I love Boggle! Another great, insightful post, Amy. Thank you!